These perfectly soft and fluffy Lemon Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are tangy, refreshing, and are the quintessential Spring and Summertime treats.
Lemon is the ultimate Spring and Summer flavor, but lucky for us, we can enjoy these lemon cupcakes year-round. No matter what time of the year it is, if you need a little sunshiny pick-me-up, these cupcakes will certainly do it for you.
This lemon cupcakes recipe is easy enough to bake with kids. It will be a fun activity to bake with them during a school break. And if you need more ideas to get your kids involved in the kitchen, check out this collection of easy recipes to bake with kids.
How to Make Lemon Cupcakes
Lemon cupcakes from scratch
- In a medium mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, whisk together sugar and lemon zest. Then add the softened butter and beat until fluffy
- Whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract, then add to the butter mixture and beat until combined. The mixture may look curdled at this point but that’s okay, just keep going.
- Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk in the salt, and add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.
- Stir just until the cupcake batter forms.
- Stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrape the side and bottom of the mixing bowl to ensure thorough mixing but try not to overmix the cake batter.
- Divide batter among 12 cupcake cavities using a large ice cream scoop. And bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean with just a few crumbs attached. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before adding frosting.
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
You might wonder what frosting goes best with lemon cupcakes? If you ask me, I will have to go with a tangy cream cheese frosting flavored with freshly grated lemon zest to accentuate the refreshing tangy flavor of these lemon cupcakes.
- Beat together butter and cream cheese until thoroughly combined and creamy.
- Add vanilla extract and lemon zest and beat to combine.
- Add powdered sugar and stir to combine first.
- Then gradually increase the mixer speed and beat until frosting is fluffy.
If you want a sweet, tangy, and complimentary frosting, try this strawberry cream cheese frosting.
Taking your lemon cupcakes to the next level
For extra lemony flavor, I suggest adding a lemon curd filling to these cupcakes. This is optional but will definitely take your cupcakes to the next level. See this Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes recipe for directions on how to fill it.
Buttermilk is a typical ingredient that I use in a lot of cupcake recipes. If you don’t have buttermilk, you could use:
- Enough milk + 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to make ½ cup in this recipe.
- A mixture of half sour cream or yogurt + milk will also work as a substitute.
Lemon flavoring: I prefer freshly grated lemon zest for these cupcakes and frosting. But if you don’t have fresh lemons, you can use pure lemon extract for flavoring instead. Adding a lemon curd filling will also enhance the lemon flavor.
How to store lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
Frosted cupcakes will last up to a week in the refrigerator and much longer, up to 3 months, in the freezer.
When keeping cupcakes in the fridge or freezer, store them in an airtight container. Take care to wrap the cupcakes well when freezing to keep the freezer smell out. Let cupcakes come to room temperature before serving.
More lemony treats
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, send me a photo, rate it and don’t forget to tag me @wildwildwhisk on Instagram. I’d love to see what’s cooking up in your kitchen. Cheers!
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (136 g)
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 3 oz unsalted butter (room temperature, 85 g)
- ½ cup buttermilk (128 g)
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (162 g)
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 12 oz cream cheese (room temperature, 340 g)
- 6 oz unsalted butter (room temperature, 170 g)
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 ¼ cup powdered sugar (125 g)
Make the lemon cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line a regular size muffin pan with cupcake liners and set aside.
- Add sugar and lemon zest into a medium mixing bowl or your stand mixer bowl and whisk together to release the lemon essential oil from the zest. Add softened butter and beat until fluffy.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Add the liquid mixture to the butter mixture and beat until combined.
- In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a medium mixing bowl. Add salt to the flour mixture, and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrape the side and bottom of the bowl to ensure the batter is well mixed.
- Divide batter evenly among twelve cupcake cavities using a large ice cream scoop and bake for 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean with just a few crumbs attached.
- Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the pan, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before adding frosting.
Prepare the cream cheese frosting
- In a large mixing bowl or a stand mixer bowl, cream butter and cream cheese together until thoroughly mixed and creamy.
- Add vanilla extract and lemon zest, and beat to combine.
- Add powdered sugar and stir until incorporated, gradually increase the mixer speed and beat until fluffy.
- Frost the cooled cupcakes using a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip of your choice, or simply add frosting with an offset spatula or butter knife
- If you don’t have buttermilk, use enough milk + 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to make ½ cup. Or half sour cream or yogurt + half milk.
- To both the cake batter and frosting, you can add lemon extract for additional flavoring or in place of lemon zest if you don’t have any lemon. However, note that fresh lemon zest is preferred.
This post was originally published on 9/13/2014. The post has been updated and republished on 4/27/2020 with the latest improvements, extra tips, and process photos to help you in the kitchen.